Holy wow, it’s January! Bringing with it a brand new year, and a brand new Featured Author! This month we have the lovely Wendy Russ visiting.
Southern author and teller-of-tall-tales currently living nestled in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks. Her short stories and poems have been published by Tales of the South, Emerge Literary Journal and elsewhere. Her debut novel is The League for the Suppression of Celery.
We’ll start with our Q&A, and round it up with a fabulous giveaway. Come and say “hello!”…
drey: Hi Wendy! Welcome to drey’s library, and thank you for taking the time to visit us this month!
Who is Wendy Russ? Please introduce yourself in about ten sentences.
WR: I am a Southern storyteller living in the wilds of small-town Arkansas. My passion is writing, but I also love making things from scratch. I make soap, handspun yarn, glass beads. I love to knit and crochet. It just seems like a miracle that you can take animal hair and turn it into a beautiful sweater with a moving wheel and two sticks. I think that’s what fascinates me about it. And maybe that’s why writing is such a thrill – you take a bag of words, pick out the best ones and after a while you have invented all new worlds and temporal dimensions.
drey: When did you first realize you were meant to be a writer? How did you go about making that realization a reality? And how long did it take?
WR: It seems like it’s just always been a part of my fabric. My mother got me tiny little diary when I was about nine. And I don’t remember necessarily wanting to be a writer back then but when I found the diary a few years ago there was an entry in it that mentions “I started my novel today…” In junior high and high school I spent my lunch hours making up silly stories for my friends. I pretended they were “dreams” I’d had the night before, but basically they were just funny stories I improvised with my friends as the characters and they loved being the stars of stories that were adventurous and also starred their current boy crushes. And in college I used any excuse at all to write.
Back then it was harder to find an audience because there was no such thing as blogging (or even the Internet for common usage). But I wrote like a maniac and was delighted to find any venue I could for someone to read my stuff. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s or 40’s that I decided to apply some discipline to the craft. While I felt that people liked what I wrote I never had anyone, until just a couple years ago, who got in my face and said, “Do it. For real.” That’s what propelled me forward.
drey: Tell us about THE LEAGUE FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF CELERY. And why celery as opposed to any other vegetable? Not that I’m complaining, it’s never been one of my favorites…
WR: The idea of a “League for the Suppression of Celery” started as a silly joke – a way to poke fun at something I really didn’t like at all. (It’s nausea-inducing for me.) I loved the idea of a bunch of crazy militants taking something that looks so innocent and turning it into something diabolical. I am a sucker for things that are absurd, so it suited me well. When I was kicking around ideas for the novel a friend suggested using that for the title. A completely brilliant idea because I love crazy things. Also, celery IS actually evil. The documentation is out there.
drey: I’ll have to go a-hunting for that! Anything that takes celery out of my life can only be good…
You published THE LEAGUE FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF CELERY independently. Can you tell us why?
WR: Probably the main reason is the “control” issue. I like doing things my way. I have heard so many stories from author friends – complaints that they only get to see their numbers a few times a year, or that they didn’t like their cover, or nobody returns their calls, or they get editorially eviscerated, etc etc. It was a trade-off – do I miss a possible advance so I can control everything? Is it worth giving up a push to get into the bookstores? Other friends I talked to said when they were with smaller publishers they did more to promote themselves than their publishers did. And it wasn’t so much a complaint about their publishers – more about publishing in general. It’s a competitive world. All I have to do is promote one book. I am completely dedicated to that book. How many books does a publisher have to promote? Time is finite.
And there is a lot to be said for intuition. I felt like it was the right thing to do, on a gut level. I am not afraid to do things on my own, so it was a comfortable decision for me.
drey: What words of advice would you offer aspiring authors? What do you wish you’d known before you embarked on this journey?
WR: Read, read, read. Read everything GOOD you can get your hands on. Meet other authors and learn from their mistakes. Study the craft of writing by analyzing other people’s writings. Work to make your writing better. The rest, to me, seems like magic and luck. The marketing, the getting noticed, and all that. Make a good product people fall in love with. All the rest is just hard work, experimentation and praying.
Oh, and most important – get yourself a handful (or more) of people who will read your drafts and not be afraid to tell you something sucks. Don’t publish anything without letting your sharply-taloned friends make a meal of the writing you love the most.
drey: What do you indulge in, when not writing?
WR: Okay, super-secret indulgence… video games with my two boys.
drey: Heh. I just spent 4 days playing Lego: Lord of the Rings with the little man… No wonder I’m so behind on my reviews!
Smackdown: Your favorite characters face off in the ring. Who are they, who wins, and why?
WR: Well, instead of a “ring” I’m thinking a dark and creepy maze, full of serious twisty-turny mind games. Hannibal Lecter (who is a brilliant character) and Harry Potter (brilliant and adorable) face off and at the end of the day I’d like to think Harry wins if he can keep Lecter out of his brain. I think Lecter would finally meet his match by going up against someone armed with magic. And I am a sucker for stories where the good guys win.
drey: Love the maze! Kinda like the one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the movie)? That one’s creepy!
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution for 2013? What is it?
WR: I stopped making resolutions in my 20’s because I always felt like I was setting myself up for failure. I am a big proponent for pushing the bar up incrementally, though. When things get easy in whatever you do, it’s time to add in a challenge. Try a new technique, learn a new style of writing, try out a few new recipes, change up the exercise routine. If you’re standing still you’re moving backward. (Relatively speaking.)
drey: What’s your favorite dessert?
WR: I’m not a big dessert eater, but I’m completely addicted to Coke slushes. My stress-reliever of choice.
drey: Oooh, I love those! Good thing there’s really only one place in town I can get some… As far as I know, anyway (& I’m keeping it that way!)
What’s up next for you?
WR: Right now I’m doing a lot of short pieces while I’m fermenting the next book. I have several book plans I’m working on and just waiting for one of them to speak louder than the rest. But definitely a new 2013 book!
And a quick Proust-lite to finish up:
- What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Doing good works that make the world better. Leaving things better than when you found it.
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Ennui. Having no direction, no ambition.
- Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in fiction?
For me it’s more generic – I love heroes and heroines who feel their fear and push through it to achieve their goal. They don’t let it paralyze them or push them back.
- What is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in real life?
I’m a super big fan of philanthropists. I love well-reasoned people who work hard to make life better for others. Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Warren Buffett, and people who dedicate their time to great organizations like Rotary International.
- What sound do you love?
- What sound do you hate?
Eating noises – smacking, slurping, crunching.
- The quality you admire most in a man?
- The quality you admire most in a woman?
My answer for men and women would be the same – honesty, integrity, authenticity.
- If not a writer, you would be a …
I don’t like to think about not being a writer, but if I had to pick – some kind of artisan who makes beautiful, quality things – a weaver or glass blower or painter.
- What is your favorite swear word?
Courtesy of my youngest son: HOLY SNAPCAKES!
Wendy’s got a giveaway for y’all lucky ducks. Are you curious? Of course you are! Here’s what’s in the giveaway prize pack –
1 signed copy of The League for the Suppression of Celery
(Winner can also select to receive a Kindle version in lieu of a paper copy)
1 bar of hand-made soap OR some home-spun yarn
SO. That’s book + soap, or book + yarn, your choice.
And in case you’re wondering what this looks like:
To enter, fill out the form below before January 30th. Good luck!